sun 14/07/2024

CD: Edwyn Collins – Understated | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Edwyn Collins – Understated

CD: Edwyn Collins – Understated

There is still juice in the old guitar jangler's tank

Fishing for compliments? This might be a salmon but the music inside is full of soul

Sympathy vote time is over. After Edwyn Collins suffered two cerebral haemorrhages in 2005 his comeback album, 2007’s Losing Sleep, was greeted with ecstatic reviews. It was a certainly pretty good, but maybe critics, being the old softies we are at heart, were slightly swayed by our unbridled joy at the fact that the former Orange Juice frontman was simply back in the game.

So the new album, Understated, is the real test of whether Collins can still cut the musical mustard.

The verdict was hardly ever in doubt. From the opening Northern Soul stomp of "Dilemma" to the unashamedly sentimental closing cover of Rod McKuen's "Love's Been Good to Me" this is a total return to old funky-pop form. There may be no pension plan world-beater in the vein of  "A Girl Like You", but there is plenty to get you turning up the volume and dancing around the kitchen. Collins' familiar influences of soul and the Velvet Underground are delightfully present and correct, while a selection of chums, including ex-Pistol Paul Cook and current Dexys sticksman Dave Ruffy, jobsharing on drums, make this a team effort.

Inevitably his illness, his recovery and a sense of mortality and transience cast a shadow over his lyrics, whether intentional or not. On the romantic, reflective "Forsooth" he croons "I’m so lucky to be alive... and I feel reborn", while on "Too Bad" he sings "Something's gotta change, all things fade away" as the piledriving beat conjures up the spirit of Wigan Casino.

Personal albums have a tendency to be a little bit icky. Not this one. Collins sounds fighting fit, even swaggering on the punchy, guitar-heavy “In the Now”. The album might be called Understated but Collins is more vibrant, aggressive and urgent than he has been for over a decade, and all the healthier for it. 

Watch Edwyn Collins perform snippets of "Understated"

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